Wicked, Lion King Take Top Honors in 2004 Gypsy of the Year
By Robert Viagas
December 8, 2004
Wicked may not have won the Tony Award this year, but it snatched top fundraising honors in the 16th Annual Gypsy of the Year Competition Dec. 6-7.The company of the “Oz”-inspired show raked in $365,918 toward a $2,754,631 total for the fundraising event to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
The dancers of The Lion King impressed the judges, winning the coveted award for best skit.
The winners were announced Dec. 7 at the Neil Simon Theatre.
Gathered by 50 Broadway, Off-Broadway and touring shows over the past six weeks in nightly curtain-call appeals, the total is the second-highest ever, behind 2003’s $3,359,000 but ahead of 2002’s $2,265,000. The Wicked contribution is greater than the overall total for the entire event in 1991.
The 2004 “Gypsy of the Year” competition gave two performances, Dec. 6 and 7 at the Neil Simon Theatre, hosted by Bruce Vilanch, currently appearing at the theatre as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. The event featured a mixture of satirical skits, inspirational songs, and virtuoso dance numbers, all performed by the “gypsies,” the Broadway dancers who go from show to show and provide singing and dancing support to the leads. This year’s event featured several stars as well, including Whoopi Goldberg, Brooke Shields, Dame Edna and, just for fun, Joan Rivers.
Wicked also was honored as runner-up for best skit, imagining Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Madonna starring as, respectively, Galinda, Nessa and Madame Morrible in a Las Vegas production of their show.
Fundraising runners-up among musicals were Avenue Q ($154,208), Mamma Mia! ($154,032), The Phantom of the Opera ($151,124), The Lion King ($150,822) and Rent ($144,179).
The top fundraising national tour was Mamma Mia! ($147,929), the top fundraising Off-Broadway show was Menopause, The Musical ($13,200), and the top fundraising Broadway play was 12 Angry Men ($110,724). Shields quipped that the last two made a good pair: menopausal women and angry men.
BC/EFA channels the money to a variety of activities that support those living with AIDS, and support research into a cure.
The satirical knives were out at the 16th annual “Gypsy of the Year” competition, with Donna Murphy’s frequent absences from Wonderful Town a cherished target.
New Wonderful Town star Brooke Shields was described as “stepping into the shoes of the hardest-working woman on Broadway — Donna Murphy’s understudy.”
Twelve Broadway and Off-Broadway shows entered skits, songs and dances into the competition at the Neil Simon Theatre Dec. 6-7. Some were demonstrations of the glory of dance, like The Lion King’s “Driven,” which featured Afro-jazz choreography by Gregory A. King, and which was named best skit of the year. Some were touching, like Menopause, the Musical performing a medley of “Lean on Me” and “Say a Little Prayer.”
But most were slashingly parodic of themselves, their producers and their fellow shows.
Hairspray rolled out a parody of “Hollywood Squares,” called “Broadway Squares,” a game show in which actors playing the likes of Liza Minnelli complaining about David Gest to the tune of “Be Our Guest,” Kristin Chenoweth as “The Wicked Witch of the West Wing,” plus a gravely Harvey Fierstein and a porky Bernadette Peters. The Donna Murphy square remained stubbornly empty throughout.
Wonderful Town rewrote its opening number, “Christopher Street” to poke fun at the other shows running on “45th Street.”
Mamma Mia! imagined its show sanitized and bowdlerized for a post-election “Red State” tour, in which Sophie castigates her mother for being such a slut. They apologized that they had tried to eliminate all the openly gay men in the chorus — but found the show didn’t work with only women.
Phantom of the Opera reimagined itself as an Avenue Q-style puppet musical, with Miss Piggy as “Pigstine” and Kermit as the “hideously deformed” leading man, the “Phrogtom.”
Speaking of Phantom, Ryan Lowe, who plays the countertenor Mary Sunshine in Chicago, stopped the show with a full-out version of “Think of Me” from the gothic musical, performing both Christine’s soprano and Raoul’s tenor parts.
Officer Lockstock and Little Sally (Don Richard and Jennifer Cody) from the long-closed Urinetown returned to take comic potshots at the surviving shows. Sally glumly said she’s reduced to auditioning for Bombay Dreams and Lockstock deadpanned that he didn’t know she was “looking for temp work.”
He said that the desire to work on Broadway was something “you just can’t shake” like viral laryngitis at La Cage.
Continuing like a vaudeville comedy team, Lockstock asked Sally if she’d seen Donna Murphy in “Spider-Man 2.” Sally lamented that she saw the film — but Murphy was out that day.
She said that she’d seen Good Vibrations, and “it made me appreciate how brilliant Dracula was.”
Lockstock said he’d heard Spamalot was good, but she moaned, “I’m sure Seussical looked good on paper, too.”
Wicked was honored as runner-up for best skit, “The Wicked Truth,” imagining Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Madonna starring as, respectively, Galinda, Nessa and Madame Morrible in a Las Vegas production of their show.
Afterward, Kayden sighed, “I love Tony-losing musicals!,” a reference to the fact that Urinetown won Best Book and Best Score, but lost Best Musical to Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Host Vilanch punctuated the skits with a series of faux “Rialto News” bulletins, including one about the dancers of the Beach Boys-music-fueled Good Vibrations showing up at rehearsals for competing Elvis-song-sparked musical All Shook Up, “and it was 40 minutes before they realized they were at the wrong show.”
Dame Edna Everage (Barry Humphries) appeared, ostensibly to introduce the judges, who this year included Cherry Jones, Tovah Feldshuh, Mario Cantone, Jai Rodriguez and high-rolling contributors James Bashor, Judy Dove, Barbara Ann Klein and Marion Duckworth Smith. However, Dame Edna wound up giving the audience a not-so-mini version of her solo show at the Music Box, flinging gladiolas, “lovingly” insulting audience members, and going on just long enough so Vilanch afterward commented, “And that’s our show!” while pretending to wave good night.